“Arnold is brilliant in Terminator, you know…”, that is the earliest recollection I have of my first best friend. He was from the Phillipines, and a humongous fan of Schwarzenneger. In the heat of Dhaka’s summer, when we were in Lower KG, we would exchange our lunch boxes: my kewa datshi for his fries, always. I think I was the bully in the relationship.
Then when letter- writing, not the English-classroom version, but writing to complete strangers was in fashion, I had a pen pal from Zimbabwe. She was found listed somewhere in Kuensel, I think. We exchanged three letters before they began returning to me. I was in standard six then, and knew the Atlas Zimbabwe. Now I know why the addresses of girls and women change there.
Since then many lasting friendships have been created. Many, also, have weathered, thanks to existence in disparate zones even if in the same period.
There is also a certain friendship that endures even if the friend ceases to be.
I can still see him in his shades, singing in my head. I can hear him saying, “I can’t make it tonight, I will be addressing the Nation”. It is as if he never left, and lives in me as I read the lines before me on the blackness of the prompter. Adjectives were his forte, and he never failed to charm. Just singing wasn’t enough; singing wholeheartedly and infectiously was his specialty. His bear hug was the best in the world. He lived with his heart. He showed me his stained gums and teeth and warned me against smoking when I first met him in standard twelve in Delhi. He also showed me the picture of the woman he loved. He was the embodiment of friendship, unconditional and giving. He bought me ice-cream, everyday, for all the days that he stayed in Delhi. I never felt excluded around him. He could shame fun and her cousins by outdoing them all. Boredom went into hiding if he even caught a whisper of his presence. Trance moved him, and imitation thrilled him. Only he could rock those metro vests.
I don’t know if I miss him because he still IS. He very much IS.